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Uncle Ira Jennings

Born: July 1815, Danby, Tompkins County, New York
Died: 27 March 1903, Warrior District, Lizella, Bibb County, Georgia


THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION MAY 3, 1896

IRA JENNINGS - - The oldest stage driver and U. S. mail carrier now alive in the world and in active service is Ira Jennings, of the Warrior district, Bibb County, Georgia. Though he is nearly eighty-two years old, he is hale and hearty and travels in his buggy 150 miles every week carrying the mails. The finger of time has traced many deep lines in his face and exposure to the elements have furrowed his brow and hardened his skin, but his spirit is still young, his step is quick and the fires of democratic ardor burns brightly and unceasingly in his breast. He has faced and braved many storms, atmospherical and political, and has always rode safely into port on the crest of the foaming waves.

IraHe is known at "Uncle Ira" in this neck of the woods. Upon his favor have hung the destinies of many aspiring politicians. He has selected and defeated numerous candidates for office, and for many long years it was the practice of those seeking the suffrages of the people to first communicate with Uncle Ira before announcing their candidacy. For thirty-five years he was manager of the Warrior precinct, and there was an old political saying "as goes the Warrior so goes the country". Many candidates either to their joy or woe, have realized the truth of this. He still takes an active interest in politics and his influence is potent.

"Uncle Ira" has had a remarkable career and his history is full of thrilling incidents and startling episodes. He was born July 15, 1815, in Danby, Tompkins County, New York, six miles from Ithaca, on the Oswega and Ithaca turnpike. His mother was the first white child born in Owego, Tioga County, on the Susquehanna River, New York (A). So delighted were the Indian tribes at her arrival they had a jubilee in celebration of the event. At the age of 13 Ira went on the race track in the capacity of jockey, in which position he remained several years. He was a fast rider and once won a purse of $10,000 for the owner of a half-mile racer, a Pennsylvanian by the name of Correlle.

"Uncle Ira" won this race in a very novel manner. He had trained the Correlle horse with a fleet-footed greyhound. The speed of the two animals was about the same. The greyhound had been taught to race the track with the horse, and the runs between them were neck and neck. The reputation of a fast horse in Virginia reached the ears of Correlle in Pennsylvania and he determined to race his horse with the Virginia horse. So he took Ira, the horse and the greyhound to the Virginia race course, where a great meet was being held. One of the events was a half-mile dash between the famed Virginia horse and another rapid animal. Correlle told Ira that the speed of the Virginia horse must be taken with the greyhound. So when the two horses dashed off, Ira, unobserved by the great crowd which was watching the take-off, turned loose the greyhound who raced down the track and came out twenty feet ahead of the horses, with the Virginia horse winning. Correlle knew then that his horse could defeat the Virginia victor for it was always a nip and tuck race between his horse and the greyhound.

Correlle banted the Virginian for a race between their horses for a $10,000 purse. The banter was accepted and the great audience which had assembled to see the race bet their money on the Virginia horse and many ladies wanted to bet their watches with Correlle that he would lose, but Correlle could not take all the wagers as all his money was in the purse. The race was run with Ira riding Correlle's horse. Ira's horse came out winner by several lengths.

Soon after this Ira left the race court and began driving a canal boat that weighed 290 tons. He drove two huge black horse tandem that weighed 1500 lbs. each. After a certain trip from Ithica to Albany he left the horses at Auburn and the crew took the boat into Ciougin Lake. Ira went down into the hull on a mission and discoverd the boat had sprung a leak. He took off his coat and shoved it into the hole, stopping the leak and saving the boat. This experience satisfied him with boating and he left the water and went to Oswega, N. Y. and commenced stage driving and carrying the U.S. mail from Oswega to Mt. Rose and between various other points in New York and Pennsylvania. He was then about seventeen. A wooden railroad was built between Oswega and Ithica and Ira commenced to drive horses tandem on that. The track, wheels, cars and everything about ths railroad was made of wood. One day on this road he drove Andrew Jackson, President of the U. S., Vice-Pres. Martin Van Buren, Postmaster General Amos Kendall, and Nick Biddell, Cashier of the U.S. Bank. On this occasion President Jackson was making a campaign for re-electon. Ira says he knew Andrew Jackson and Martin van Buren quite well. Ira drove on the wooden railroad six months. He then carried thirty head of horses for John Avery to Petersburg and began driving a stage and carrying the mail from Petersburg to Richmond and City Point. Also he drove from Linchburg, Charlottesville and Staufton. Later he drove from Halifax, N. C. to Tarber, on the Tar River, then from Cheraw, S. C. to Patilla Creek.

President Jackson ordered an express line to run from Washington to New Orleans at the rate of ten miles per hour on horseback. Ira went to Petersburg and got thirty horses and returned to Cheraw to help run the express. He established his horses seven miles apart on the route and he carried the first express into Cheraw that had ever entered the city. Orders from President Jackson came one day for every man along the route to be at his post as he desired to see how rapidly his messages could be carried from Washington to New Orleans. When the trial day came Ira received the message at Cheraw and went in full gallop to the end of his route, a distance of 75 miles, and back again to Cheraw, covering the 150 miles on horseback in one day, stopping only to change horses.

When Ira quit riding the express he returned to Petersburg and met a Mr. Saltmarsh who induced him to come to Macon, Ga. He reached here June 15, 1834, at the age of nineteen. On the 19th day of June 1834, sixty-two years ago, Ira started driving a stage and carrying the U. S. mail from Macon to Knoxville, Crawford County, Ga. and he is carrying the mail between these two points to this day. Stage driving has long since become obsolete in this civilized section and progressive era of railroads, but Ira carries Uncle Sam's mail with horse and buggy. In 1834 his route extended to Crollstand, some distance beyond Knoxville, and four miles beyond the Flint River. In December 1837 there was a very heavy freshet and Ira attempted to cross the river with several others on the flat. Among them was John Toser, stage agent at Columbus, and a young boy named Tom Hicks. Midway of the river the flat broke loose and floated four miles down the river. The waters were high and the river was far beyond its banks. The flat floated under the limbs of a large oak tree, and the stage, one of the horses that had been un-harnessed, and the boy Tom Hicks, were swept into the raging stream. With great difficulty young Hicks was rescued from drowning and the horse was saved, but the coach was lost for four months, but the next April was found in an old field where the waters had carried it. The flat and its occupants drifted some distance down the river to an island where the party remained for hours and were finally rescued by farmers in batteaus. When the coach was swept off the flat an old pouch containing $7000 in bills was lost. In July, seven months after the freshet, it was found by an old man named Patty Carr. The bills were badly water stained and stuck tightly together. They were forwarded to the Treasury at Washington and redeemed. Carr was paid a reward of $100 for finding the money.

Ira was married Dec. 5, 1839. His wife died in Feb. 1891. They had had a happy married life of more than fifty-two years. Seven children blessed their union, six of whom are still living. He has twenty-six grandchildren alive and nine dead. He also has three great grandchildren.

During the late war he helped form the Hugenin Rifles and provided for and took care of 15 families of the members of the company while the Rifles were at the front.

"Uncle Ira" is a man of much wit and geniality, is liked by everybody and is true and humane. During the long years he has been carrying the mails he has served the government faithfully and efficiently.


Obituary


Macon Telegraph & News
Macon, Georgia
Saturday, March 28, 1903

Front Page

UNCLE IRA JENNINGS DIES
Oldest Stage Driver in America Lived in the Warrior,

"Uncle Ira's Mail Bag" For Years Furnished Good Stories for Readers of the News --An interesting Character Has Passed Away

Uncle Ira Jennings is said to have carried the first United States mail that was ever delivered in Georgia. He was the oldest living stage driver in America. He died at the home of his sister (1) in the Warrior District last night. A large number of his friends will go out from Macon tomorrow morning to attend the funeral at Peron Church on the line of Bibb and Crawford Counties.

Mr. Jennings was 88 years old. He came to Macon about seventy years ago as a stage driver, which business he followed until railroads took the place of the stage coaches. He married Miss Elizabeth Newsom, daughter of Mr. Henry Newsom of the Warrior District. Mrs. Jennings died about ten years ago. They reared a family of six children as follows: Messers W. H., B. F., and Theo Jennings and Mrs. R. E. Jones, Mrs. Elizabeth Hollomon and Miss Martha Ellen Jennings.

Mr. Jennings was one of the most interesting characters in this section of the country. He was born in Ithaca, New York (2) and in his boyhood days he became a stage driver, and followed the advance of the stage coach into the West and Southern countries until he reached Georgia. Here he drove from Augusta to Macon and from Macon to Columbus and sometimes went as far as Montgomery. On some of his long journeys he has had as passengers the country's most distinguished men. The history of the United States would not be entirely complete without mention of the parts his stage coaches played in some of the thrilling events of earlier times.

Among the old citizens who delight to relate antecdotes of Mr. Jennings in his early youth is Mr. Henry Westcott, father of Sheriff Westcott. Mr. Westcott says "when I first knew Uncle Ira he was a stage coach driver and he could crack a whip after a fashion that captured a boys heart. I was learning the harness trade in Macon at the time and he used to give me lessons in how to plait a whip so as to make it crack loud".

"Uncle ira's Mail Bag" was the heading that the News ran for a long time over the contributions of the veteran stage driver and mail carrier from the Warrior. He had a keen sense of news and never missed an opportunity to give information for the benefit of the public when a news item came his way. He was the carrier of the mail on the Star Route through the Warrior for years.

Note Errata:
(1) Ira Jennings was born in Danby, Tompkins County, New York which is immediately adjacent to Ithaca, New York.
(2) He died at the home of his daughter, Espy R (Jennings) Jones, not his sister.



Obituary


Paper (name and date unknown)

Many of Macon's present citizens will remember Uncle Ira Jennings of the Warrior district, a unique character in his way. In his early days he drove the stage from New York to Macon, the first stop in Macon being at the Washington Hall, and the next stop at the Pealiquer where the horses could be given a good feed and rest.

The baggage of the passengers of the stage line was carried in what was called the boot, a compartment covered with leather for protection during rains and sometimes used to bring light freight or valuable packages - it was the rumble-seat of those days, though never used by passengers to ride in because of its cramped quarters.

It was not until the railroads - the Central to Savannah and the Monroe to Atlanta and soon thereafter the Georgia to Augusta, that the stages were taken off the roads and Uncle Ira settled down on a farm in the Warrior district, and began to exercise the knowledge of politics he had acquired in his native state of New York and became a boss.

For many years he reigned, this stately old stage-coach driver, the political boss of Bibb county and no man could be found to run for office, from coroner to governor, without his first having an interview with uncle Ira. Everybody liked and at the same time feared him. In his way he was the last of the Mohicans, the last of the rough and rowdy old-timers and knew Macon and Bibb county as a book.

Many were the good stories told by him of the early days and people of Macon and Bibb County, expecially concerning the elections in which he played an important and generally always a winning part. To the newspaper boys he was a never failing source of good stories and which he delighted to tell






Family

John Ira Jennings was born in July 1815 in Danby, Tompkins County, New York, the first child of Pliny Jennings and Mary Marsh.

Ira's father, Pliny Jennings was born the 26th of June, 1793 in Cornwall, Litchfield, Connecticut, the youngest of six children. His older brothers, Hudson and Benjamin, were among the earliest settlers of Danby, Tompkins County, New York locating there when Pliny would have been about 14 years old.

"In the history of the town of Danby, one of the earliest settlers was Hudson Jennings, who located there in 1807, and the name of Jennings has ever since been familiar to every resident of this section as associated with honor, integrity, and ability." Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York by John H. Selkreg

Pliny married Mary Marsh who was born the 8th of March, 1799 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Pliny and Mary had two children before moving to Geneva New York where Mary died at 32 years of age leaving Ira, age 16, and his sister, Sophronia, age 13.

Sophronia went on to marry Benjamin Jasper Kellogg in 1838 in Geneva New York where the wedding was attended by her brother, Ira, and her father Pliny Jennings. Sophronia and Benjamin eventually settled in Michigan and had ten children.

Pliny Jennings lived out his life in Geneva New York and was active in politics as evidenced by the following which appeared in the Geneva Gazette on the 25th of July 1856:

The undersigned, Democratic Electors of the Town of Seneca, invite their fellow Democrats, and all in favor of electing BUCHANAN & BRECKINRIDGE to the Presidency and Vice Presidency of the United States, to meet at the Franklin House on Monday Evening, July 29th at 8 o'clock, for the purpose of organizing preparatory to a vigorous prosecution of the Presidential Campaign.

Pliny Jennings was one of the above Democratic Electors along with Michael O'Flaherty. Some 14 years later, the 1870 census shows Pliny at age 74 living with the O'Flaherty family.

The next census of 1880 did not contain any records of Pliny living in Geneva at that time. It is likely that Pliny Jennings died before the following article appeared in The Geneva Gazette on the 29th of April, 1892.

REMINISCENCES
Geneva Gazette
29 April 1892

There are a few left of Geneva boys born in 1821-22. Memory is quite vivid with most of them as to men and things in 1832 and onward.

Said John D. Young in talking over old times recently, "you recollect that queer old codger Ayres, who came in from the country on the Castle road. Usually had his wife with him. What a rig he drove; a 2-wheeled vehicle with a little hay in it. Instead of a whip he wielded a large whipstock or cane with which he incessantly punched the old "hoss" to keep him on a lazy trot. In one of my mischievous pranks I found opportunity to unhitch the traces and fasten the driving lines to the hame rings. You ought to have seen the old man's surprise when he punched up the horse and the brute pulled out of the thills, almost hauling him over the dashboard. I put in an appearance about that time and fairly convinced the old man that he made the mistake in hitching up. 'Mebbe I have -- I'm getting pretty old.'

"And then there was another quaint old fellow -- a regular Johnny Bull in his swallow-tail coat, knee breeches and buckle shoes. That was Billy Swales. He owned and lived on the farm now constituting the State Agricultural Station. He afterwards sold it to Charles Godfrey.

"And then there was Israel Crittenden, who used to ride to and fro between his farm and the village on horseback and at a pretty lively gait for one who carried so much 'ardent' in his skin. But I never knew him to meet with an accident.

"Jerome Loomis, the Revolutionary patriot, 'driving his old horse "Lark,"' was another familiar figure in his long white queue often seen on the Castle road. The boys always looked upon the old soldier with admiration. Three only of his very large family remain.

"Then there were two positive characters in our immediate neighborhood -- Adam Wilson, the English cavalryman who fought under Wellington at Waterloo. He still retained his huge broadsword, and when he got pretty full, as was too often the case, he was prone to imagine that his wife and children were dastard followers of the hated Napoleon, and he would flourish his weapon too dangerously near their inoffensive heads. Often they would have to flee to neighbors for protection during his warlike moods. A boon companion of his was the little sawed-off, round-shouldered Daniel James. How often I have seen them 'holding up the fence' along by Pete Earle's house. And when they parted it was invariably with the assurance of the stalwart soldier, 'we're frens for life, Daniel -- we're frens fer life!'

And Pliny Jennings. Will you ever forget Pliny Jennings? What an old sardine he was; how he loved to gossip; knew everybody and everybody's pedigree. And how he loved to tease poor old Mary Carey, another character as quaint as any going to make up our community. Homely ! It's no name for it. Wall-eyed, and face so wrinkled you couldn't put a pin point on a smooth place. She resided till her death on Catharine street -- now dignified by the name West Avenue.

"Charley Campbell -- he was another never-to-be-forgotten character. What fun we had with old Charley. And he enjoyed the fun too, and would take any amount of boys' nonsense until they began to pull at his coat-tails -- then look out for stones -- he always carried a few for such emergency in his pockets. I wish you could put in type so as to be understood the queer sound that came from his throat in emphasizing a retort to our badgerings. He made a special 'circus' for us at general trainings.

"Poor old 'Granny Mills'. Do you remember the occasion when her house burned down over her head? It stood on the spot where Brundage's carriage shop now stands. It was with difficulty she was restrained from rushing in and perishing with the destruction of her humble dwelling. What a search was made by us boys for the gold and silver treasure supposed to be buried in the ruins. The 'finds' however did not make any of us rich.

"Well, this will do for one chapter. Let us get together again and talk over 'old times.' "


John Ira Jennings married Elizabeth L. Newsom on the 5th of December 1839. Elizabeth was born in 1818 in Georgia, and died 5th February 1891. She was the daughter of Henry Newsom and Elizabeth Potts.

John and Elizabeth had seven children.

Madison P Jennings was born about 1842 in Bibb County Georgia and died 17th June 1864 at age 22 from chronic illness contracted during military service in the Civil War. He was a member of the 30th Regiment, Company D, Huguenin Rifles from September 25,1861 until his admission into Ocmulgee Hospital at Macon, Georgia on March 3, 1864 where he subsequently died.

William H Jennings was born in 1844 in Bibb County Georgia. He joined the 30th Regiment, Company D, Huguenin Rifles on September 25,1861 at the age of 17. He was captured at Nashville, Tennessee on December 16,1864 and released at Camp Chase, Ohio on June 12,1865.

Benjamin F Jennings was born in May 1848 in Bibb County Georgia. He joined the 30th Regiment, Company D, Huguenin Rifles in June 1863 at the age of 15. He apparently lied about his age in order to be accepted as his military records indicate that he was born in 1845. He was hospitalized in Atlanta Georgia and subsequently sent to hospital in Macon, Georgia in July 1864 with lung trouble and a carbuncle on right hip. He did not return to command.

Epsy Rilla S Jennings was born November 1849 in Bibb County Georgia. She married William Russell Jones born in Bibb County, Georgia about 1846. Espy's sister, Martha Ellen Jennings, married William's brother, Thomas Henry Jones.

Epsy and William had five children.
Ida Elizabeth Jones born about 1872
Martha (Mattie) Lee Jones born about 1875
Hiram J Jones born March 1879
Franklin Jones born January 1880
E. F. Jones born May 1882
Elizabeth L Jennings was born about 1851.

Theodore Jennings was born August 1853 in Georgia. He married Julia about 1878. Julia was born in August 1863 and they had eight children.

Oscar Jennings born in February 1882
Hattie Jennings born in January 1884
Cuff Jennings born in March 1886
Samuel Jennings born in February 1888
J T Jennings born in November 1889
Oge (?) Jennings born in August 1891
T Jennings born in August 1893
Clarence Jennings born in August 1899
Martha Ellen Jennings was born August 1855 in Georgia. She married Thomas Henry Jones in about 1880. Thomas was born 23 April 1844 in Bibb County, Georgia. Martha's sister, Epsy, married Thomas' brother, William Russell Jones.

Martha and Thomas had nine children.

Laurence Jones born in 1881
Walter Arthur Jones born in 1885
Sallie Blanny Jones born August 1886 and died 1959. Sallie married Paul Dean Johnson and had four children.
William Guy Jones born July 1887
Clara Bell Jones born November 1888
Wyatt Russell Jones born February 1891 married Maggie Hartness and had three children
Connie Elizabeth Jones born July 1894
Alma Claude Jones born October 1896 married Jake C McCommon
Ira Henry Jones born October 1898

  

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